All Aboard the Polar Express Train!

We kicked off the holidays (and celebrated Colton’s 4th birthday) in Williams, Arizona. We drove 2.5 hours north to embark on The Polar Express train ride that takes you to the North Pole and back. It was truly THE MOST magical experience for Ryan and I and incredibly memorable for the kids. Beside that, we saw snow! The minute we spotted snow on the ground, Colton excitedly asked, “Mom is that really snow?” At that moment I realized he hasn’t seen snow since he was one years old so of course this was a huge deal for him. Nolan on the other hand was more interested in the rocks on the ground than the snow, but he’s still figuring things out.

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polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

We arrived on Saturday afternoon at The Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel where we booked their hotel package that includes free breakfast, dinner and train tickets. It was the cutest little hotel in the heart of a really charming town. We got checked in and immediately let the kids loose to run around and throw snowballs at each other.

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polar express Arizona

We then grabbed appetizers at the hotel Pub (and took a few glasses of  wine back to our room) so we could snack and gear up for the evening. We dressed kids in matching holiday pajamas from Hannah Andersson (our favorite!) and watched as they ran around the hotel room giddy in anticipation for what’s to come.

polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

It was 28 degrees so we had to bundle up which unfortunately hid their cute jammies under big jackets but that’s the price you pay to avoid freezing your face off. Nearly every family was dressed in either matching outfits or pajamas (my kind of event!). It was really darling to see so many loved ones grouped together.

One family had grouped a few tables together at the hotel’s restaurant and had a game of Monopoly going. I thought to myself, that’s a huge commitment as no-one can finish that game in under two hours, but nevertheless they had the right idea. Grab some hot chocolate, snuggle up by the fire and indulge in game night with your family. Moments like this one where happening everywhere you looked.

As for us, we left our hotel room at 5:10 to get into the train line by 5:15 (it was that close of a walk). The kids had their train tickets in hand as we approached the station. “Don’t lose your ticket, Colton”  Kelsey would remind him. “That’s what happened to the kid in the movie and we don’t want that.” She was right. We were in train car J so we made our way through a crowd of excited families to find a conductor waiting to welcome us aboard.

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polar-express-arizona-mom-blog

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many hats of a mom blogger

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You get reserved seats when you buy tickets (just indicate if you’re doing two separate reservations that you’d like to sit together). We were so excited to find that our two rows were located in the back of the train car, making the ride feel a bit private and cozy. The train cars flip around (thank you to the kind lady who pointed this out) so we were able to face each other during the train ride and better contain our wiggly and always-in-motion toddler.

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As the train took off from the station I caught a glimpse of Colton starring out the window. He was stiff as a board and perfectly poised during the initial moments of the train. You could tell he was a little nervous and excited for what was to come. The team did a REMARKABLE job of bringing the Polar Express movie to life through the talent and decor aboard the train. I was incredibly impressed.

Less than five minutes into the train ride they started handing out hot chocolate and huge chocolate chip cookies. The hot chocolate was served at the perfect temperature for our kids little taste buds and must have been made with chocolate heaven because Ryan and I “got ours to share” but I really devoured most of it.

They played Christmas tunes as we entered a “magic tunnel” – the tunnel helped us jump into time so we could get to the North Pole much faster. They read the Polar Express book so bring your own if you want to follow along. As we approached the North Pole, Colton and Kelsey ran to the other side of the train and glued their faces to the window to get a peek at Santa and his reindeer.

We saw little itty bitty elf houses and some other scenic buildings from Santa’s hometown. As we slowed down and started going back to Arizona, we were told Santa boarded the train! This was super exhilarating for the kids. As we waited our turn for Santa to join our train car, they gave us song books and we sang Christmas carols. I’m telling you … does it get better than this?

It does because Nolan started getting sleepy and curled up into my lap as Santa arrived and greeted the kids, giving them ‘jingle bells’ just like in the movie. Colton got an extra special birthday bell and off Santa went. Ryan and I couldn’t have asked for a better evening with our family.

We highly recommend it if you get the opportunity. Next year we plan on visiting the North Pole Experience in Flagstaff, Arizona. Please let me know if you’ve been and if you have any tips!

Book your Fall Mini Sessions and/or a Halloween Photo Shoot

Fall is already in the morning air around here, so I’m excited to start thinking about fall & holiday photo sessions.  Many of my friends were asking, so I decided to do family fall photo sessions again this year. These are mini photo sessions (30 minutes) and a great way to capture memories with your family. If you live in Arizona, I would love to photograph your family this season. See below for details.

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I’m also really excited to announce that I’ll be doing mini sessions for Halloween! Instead of snapping an iPhone pic of your child the night of Halloween when it’s dark and the kids are running out the door in excitement, let’s dress them up a few days early and take some high-quality photos! For only $50 (per family), you’ll get 10 edited images and the kids only have to spend 15 minutes showing off their costumes. Offer details are below.

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The Halloween sessions will be in an outdoor seating in Phoenix. Location to be announced.

Thank you to all of my Families

Thank you to all of the families who chose me to take their holiday family photos this year! I am blessed, honored and so happy for the opportunity to spend time with your families. It was sure a treat getting holiday cards in the mail and seeing your photos in print. I can’t thank you all enough for letting me take your pictures.

Merry Christmas, guys!

phoenix photographer - family holiday photo sessions

 

O’ Christmas Tree, O’ Christmas Tree

Ugh. Now that song is stuck in my head. Oh well. A few weeks ago (see how behind I am at life?) we went shopping for the perfect Christmas tree to grace the Cross household this year. It was Nolan’s first time, so everything about it was exciting.

Earlier in the day we had Colton’s birthday party and one of his best friends gave him this superman shirt. It comes with fake muscles and a cape. Needless to say, it’s what he wanted to wear to the Christmas tree lot. We’re picking our battles over here, so we let this one go. It sure did look cute on him though.Except for the bolt of energy it gave him in thinking he could ‘fly’ through the trees. Also … how old does Kelsey look lately? Time needs slow down a bit.

Only 2 more days until Christmas!!! I can hardly wait.

christmas tree mom blogger

christmas tree

Christmas Tree Mom Blog

christmas tree

christmas tree mom blogger

christmas tree mom blogger

christmas tree

christmas tree mom blogger

Holiday Cookies

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Kelsey, my mom and I attended a holiday cookie exchange last night. Let me just tell you … if a bunch of your mom’s friends invite you to attend a holiday cookie party, you go! You don’t even question it because these ladies know their way around the kitchen. I mean, just look at our sugar loot! PS – I’m on a diet. Doh!

Birthstone Art for your Kids

MInted art I started redesigning my home – room by room – to make it feel more like ‘us’. The kids’ playroom is next so naturally I have been scouting different places to get artwork for the blank walls. Sure, I could go to Target and spend $17 on a nice print – but there’s something so special about ordering from independent artists.

I think that’s why I love Minted Art so much. You can customize your own prints, shop by artist or style, or just browse their website for inspiration. That’s what I did. And I landed on these birthstone prints. September, February and December. Done. Done. And done. I’ve had my eye on them for a while and I’m glad I finally ordered them. Check out Minted.com, you may find some great art for your home too.

Before you purchase, check out Minted Offers because you can always find great deals. Happy shopping (and decorating)! 

Christmas at the Scottsdale Princess

arizona holiday events

many hats of a mom blogger

First off, let’s applaud a company that still says “Christmas” in all of their holiday marketing messaging. My company canned that a long time ago (such a shame!). Not only was the Christmas at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess the perfect event to kick off the holiday season, but the kids really, really (really!) enjoyed it.

This resort is so nostalgic to me because when I was little, before we moved to Scottsdale, my parents used to take us to Arizona for vacation and we always stayed at the Princess. I don’t remember much, except for the fact that Rawhide used to be nearby and this resort had an amazing pool. Well, fast forward to last night when I got to walk around this property with my kids. It was kind of surreal to watch Ryan take the kids around this resort. I imagine that’s what my dad did with me and my brothers years ago.

Anyway … back to the event.

The resort put on quite a show! There was a carousel, a gazillion Christmas lights, a huge Christmas tree, a projector that turned the side of the building into a giant gingerbread house, an Elf in costume (that Colton proudly said, “Mom, look .. a farmer!), fire pits for s’mores, a petting zoo, a train and ice skating!

Here are a few photos from our night.

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Many hats of a mom blogger

christmas at the scottsdale princess resort

Christmas at the Scottsdale Princess Resort

Christmas at the Scottsdale Princess Resort

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arizona holidays

many hats of a mom blogger

christmas at the scottsdale princess

christmas at the scottsdale princess resort

Caught these two sitting by the fire … Colton is stuffing his face with a s’more. That’s my boy!

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scottsdale princess christmas

scottsdale princess christmas
Watching Ryan with these two kids was the best part of my night. They wanted to ice skate so bad but we had to get Nolan home to bed. Next time, kiddos. If you get the chance, you should check out Christmas at the Princess. It’s a great holiday event for kids.

Party in the USA!

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fourh of july pinetop

fourh of july pinetop

fourh of july pinetop

fourh of july pinetop

Where do I even start? We had the best Fourth of July in Pinetop surrounded by family & friends. My in-laws hosted a party in the pines with live music, barbecue, too-much dessert, fire pits and all the drinks you could want. My parents and best friends were in town as well, so together, we gathered around and enjoyed this remarkable holiday as one big family.

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pinetop fourth of july

4th of july

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Pinetop collage

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fourth of july party

It was all fun and games until Colton woke up from nap and realized everyone was at his cabin. It took him about 45 minutes to be okay with the notion that these people were here to stay. Once he warmed up, and let go of my leg, we were all happy campers again.

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I can’t put my finger on it, but I love this photo so much. Thank you, Teri, for snapping it! My husband is pushing two kids on a swing and entertaining two others. And if you look reeeeally closely on the tree (front and center) you’ll see a squirrel wearing a helmet.

Thank you to my father-in-law for hosting such a memorable weekend and 4th of July party at the cabin. A lot of work goes into these things (especially when it rains and you have to move everything into the garage last-minute) and I am truly grateful!

We hope you had a wonderful time celebrating America’s birthday too!